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I Recently Found a Surprising Quirk in My Volkswagen GTI

Recently, my wife and I took a road trip in my Volkswagen GTI from Richmond, Virginia, to Nashville, Tennessee to spend a week with some friends. It was a total distance of over 1,300 miles, making it the longest road trip my wife and I have undertaken to this point. The GTI swallowed the miles effortlessly, but I did notice one surprising quirk that remained hidden up until this point.

You see, Nashville is in the Central time zone and I live in the Eastern time zone, which means I had to move my clock back an hour about halfway through Tennessee. When we crossed the time zone, I noticed my phone change it’s time automatically as expected — and when I went to change the time on my GTI, I had noticed it changed automatically, too.

Yes, the newest iterations of the GTI will track where you are through the GPS for the purposes of determining what time zone you are in. That’s certainly a cool feature, but this is Oversteer, and we take our quirkiness very seriously. We want a deep quirk that few will notice unless they’re the type of guy to offer car manuals as bathroom reading material.

And so, here’s the quirk: my car is a GTI Sport. For those who don’t follow Volkswagens religiously, the Sport was a neat trim level sold in the 2017 model year that emphasized performance and driving enhancements but eschewed much of the tech and comfort features that higher trim levels had to keep costs down. In practice, that means you get cloth seats, no sunroof, manual seats and, most importantly (to this article, at least), no navigation function. In fact, you couldn’t get navigation in a GTI unless you shelled out the big bucks for a top-of-the-line Autobahn trim.

Therefore, my GTI has no navigation system, but it still has a GPS signal receiver that tracks where I am on a map for the sole purpose of determining what time zone I’m in, so that it can change the clock for me when I cross that imaginary line. Furthermore, you can even go into the car’s settings menu under the Time and Date section and turn off the GPS feature (as well as change from daylight saving time to standard time with a single button push, another nifty feature that’s useful twice a year).

This actually gave me a bit of a man-behind-the-curtain moment when it comes to navigation systems in cars. These days, many luxury cars offer navigation as a several-thousand-dollar option. While the infotainment system itself is often slightly different from the standard systems with the usual addition of a "NAV" button, the overall cost to the automaker of adding navigation to your car probably comes down to a few programming changes, making it highly profitable.

Regardless, it’s definitely the quirkiest feature I’ve found in my GTI since I bought it in May.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. The NAV system for Mazda’s Infotainment system is pretty much all there are ready to go, including the NAV button on the console and on the screen.  All it needs is the SD car onto which the map is stored.

    Having the button there is a little bit of a slap, but, what’s even worse is that even when the car doesn’t have the NAV card installed, it will still show you latitude/longitude/altitude.  So, it’s connected and collecting the necessary data…just doesn’t have a map to point at!
    Like many cars today, when equipped with NAV it will automatically update when crossing time zones and daylight savings, however, unlike your VW, it won’t do it without springing for the NAV system.
    • I’ve heard of a few cars that are already pre-loaded with maps and GPS but needs you to pay for the service or sometimes you can download an aftermarket part or software.

      With so many cars connected to mobile 4G networks it’s silly that car makers never made it connect with google maps for GPS, Sure some do but my Chevy Volt has 4G connectivity yet navigation was not included even though OnStar is connected to GPS too, It even shows Navigation in the dash but does nothing.
      Of course my BMW has it but I’d hate to know how much it cost the previous owner… Well I could find out if I looked at the original window sticker.
  2. It has a GPS receiver for the VW connect system (sort of like OnStar) so if you’re in a crash they can send you help. I never thought of that being what changed the clock though, I thought it saw location from my phone on our 2016 when we had it plugged in for CarPlay.

    The Nav option on cars now often includes a larger hard drive with the map software downloaded, provided by a third party which also doesn’t care about upcharging a significant amount. It’s not just an extra button, even if they’re still getting their profit from the option.

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